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Archive for June, 2007

Here’s her worry:

I have concerns about the notion that blogging will soon become the choice method of academic communication, or, worse yet, the notion that blogging ought to replace traditional forms of academic publishing.

No one is suggesting blogs will or should replace traditional academic discourse. Journals are still alive and well – which is one reason the open access movement is gaining steam, even in legal scholarship.

If anything, blogs bolster the abilities of scholars to do good work in traditional forums – journals, conferences and classrooms – because blogs are conversations with peers, students and (scariest of all) the general public.

This exposure isn’t trivial. If readers like what you say on a blog, they are more likely to read your longer pieces – articles that might otherwise remain obscure and unread even by specialists in the discipline.

It’s also false that blog writing is inherently inferior to journal articles:

If blogging replaces more traditional forms of academic discourse, we lose the ‘sober second thought’ and in depth analysis that comes with researching and writing a peer reviewed paper.

Blogging can’t have in-depth analysis? Not so. That’s up the the author.

It is true that most blogs – even those by academics – are not composed of 50 page treatises where a few original ideas are buried by dozens of footnotes. That’s just as well. Shorter commentaries and serialized essays have value. They can improve writing skills, muse aloud, gather feedback from other scholars, and create communities of academics. As an example, see Brian Leiter’s new legal philosophy blog.

Even better, blog posts can seed larger projects. They offer a form of peer review – something many critics, disillusioned authors and judges say is lacking in legal scholarship, despite the best efforts of 2L student editors who valiantly fix professors’ footnotes.

All this, and on a more timely basis than offered by traditional journals’ publication schedules.

Which leads me to my next point: We need more Michael Geists.

Blogging allows experts to give sage commentary on the news of the day in something more than a sound-bite on the evening news. In blogs, law professors have the opportunity to educate the public about the law, especially in areas of controversy (as with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in the Leo Teskey case). Insofar as blogs have political clout and the attention of media outlets, they also give law professors the opportunity to raise alarms, create awareness about developing legal issues, and spur legal reform.

Try doing all that in a law review article.

For further reading about the pros and cons of academic blogging, here’s a quick round-up:

Those who disagree with Prof. Billingsley can take a look at one of my first posts to Thought Capital: How to Write an Academic Blog. Law professors, your audience awaits…

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In a post earlier this year (which still gets an amazing amount of traffic) I referenced George Orwell’s 6 Rules for writing. Now, a legal scholar has written a piece on how Orwell’s advice can improve the law, with lots of examples of judges scolding lawyers for their poor writing.

Judith Fischer documents how the rules seem to guide judges, lawyers and legislative drafters. However, she observes that misleading legal language continues to torture the sensibility of readers and pollute public discourse. (Did you know the Patriot Act has its origins in an acronym?)

The big assumption here is that lawyers have a moral duty to “elevate legal language and public discourse” in a way that does not mislead their audience. Orwell would agree. Do you?

Hat tip goes to Library Boy, who has good coverage of the plain language movement in the legal profession.

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Here’s a nod to the law professors at my alma mater who are posting to the new University of Alberta Faculty of Law Blog. High quality posts and regular updates recommend it to the blogroll and your choice of feed reader.

I’m noticing a trend: Canadian law faculty blogs on Typepad have enormous images of law school architecture.

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Responding to my post, How to hack the new CBC website, Netvibes sent me an email indicating they’ve created a page full of CBC feed content. Subscribers can personalize it as they wish.

You can do much the same thing with iGoogle.

Reaction to the redesign in the blogosphere has been tepid but illuminating. So far, there is broad consensus about getting rid of promotional blocks on the site. Here’s the roundup:

It hurts, but I’ll mention another failure of CBC.ca that is particularly wounding:

Even though the CBC today launched its new web portal, CBC Aboriginal, it has failed to link to it from either its main page or the news page. You have to drill down via into an In Depth feature on Aboriginal Canadians to find a link to it buried in a sidebar, or discover it (as I did) though an independent media advisory.

Why is this important? Today is National Aboriginal Day in Canada. It’s an obscure official holiday, and most Canadians are probably unaware of it. CBC.ca isn’t helping to change that, and appears to be unaware of its own initiatives.

Bravo.

To end on a happier note, I’ll direct you to the CBC Blogwatch, which links news items to blogger reactions.

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In an earlier post, I said that centralized, national repositories like PubMed Central perform the important service of making scholarship easier to find. I neglected to mention and recommend two resources that allow researchers to search sets of open access repositories. Both of these use the Google Custom Search Engine, which limits the scope of a Google search to specific websites.

Here they are, with deep-links to pages where you can search for articles:

  • OpenDOAR (Open Directory of Open Access Repositories)
  • ROAR (Registry of Open Access Repositories)

You’ve not heard of them but know about PubMed Central? You’ve just made my point.

Visiting either of these, it will quickly become clear that these sites are mostly concerned with the nuts and bolts of the open access movement. Helping researchers find open access materials isn’t the first priority, and that is unfortunate. These directories, if they hope to recruit a wide following, should put more focus on serving up archived papers.

The same goes for you, Directory of Open Access Journals – although of these open access directories you’re the site with the cleanest design.

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